Author Archives: Sarah

What Dennis Rodman Can Teach Us About Globalization

In the mid-seventeenth century, Japan was experiencing early forms of globalization. Westerners, mostly Christian missionaries, flooded the country in an attempt to spread their culture and religion to the people of Japan. The Japanese government feared the conversion of its people, and enacted a policy of isolationism, called “Sakoku”, expelling all Westerners from the country. The period of Sakoku lasted over two hundred years, well into the nineteenth century, and apart from limited contact with the Chinese and the Dutch, Japan was successful in remaining sealed off from the world.

Such isolationism might have been possible a few hundred years ago, but is it possible anymore? As our world becomes increasingly more connected through technology and new forms of communication, can the world support another Japan?

I’ve been thinking about this ever since we started the Comparative Politics section of class this year by talking about globalization.


This graph, showing numbers of international tourists, shows a steady increase in international travel from 1970 – 2004, and a sharp rise in tourism from 2004 – 2008. What it tells us is that the number of people traveling to other countries and inevitably sharing cultures and ideas, is growing dramatically. And travel isn’t the only way people are communicating. In 2009, during the uprising in Iran, the Iranian government tried and failed to keep its people from contacting the outside world. While a goal like that might have been possible during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries in Japan, it became much harder to enact in the twenty-first century. New technology of the Internet (most notably, twitter), gave people a way to go around their government and connect with others on an international scale. Even though western missionaries of the seventeenth century were able to utilize the technology of their time to travel around the world, they were still limited by physical borders. In the twenty-first century, with faster travel and new connections, those physical borders are much less intractable.

Even modern-day North Korea, a would-be Japan-style isolationist country, is unable to be free of globalization. Despite having a government that controls its people’s information and actions, foreign culture is able to permeate its borders. The new dictator, Kim Jong Un, is a fan of the western sport basketball, and recently invited American basketball player Dennis Rodman to visit him in North Korea. At first, the trip might seem arbitrary and laughable, but in a way, it’s indicative of the growing, international force of globalization.

I’m still not yet sure what I think about globalization. In a lot of ways, it can be a positive force, bringing people together across geographic and language barriers. Even though Rodman’s trip to North Korea didn’t seem to help destabilize the regime all that much, maybe it opens the door to future communications between our countries. But globalization can be a detriment as well; in its period of Sakoku, Japan was able to create and preserve its own unique culture largely uninfluenced by outside forces. The United Nations estimates that by the end of the century, half of the 6,000 languages spoken in the world today will have gone extinct. As our borders grow weaker and cultures merge, are we losing something valuable, or gaining it?


Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Default


Mad Man Mitt: Stuck in Sixties’ Style Sexism

This presidential election has focused a lot of attention on women and winning the female vote, and last night’s debate returned to the topic again when a young woman asked the candidates what they would do to address the problem of unequal pay for equal work. In response, Governor Romney recounted how as governor of Massachusetts, he hired numerous women to work in his administration. He also said that he had to make work hours “more flexible” in order to accommodate his female chief of staff, citing her desire to get home earlier to make dinner for her family and be with her children. On the surface, this response might seem like a good one; Mitt Romney is flexible and doesn’t discriminate against women. In fact, he went out of his way to hire them. But this attitude comes with deeply sexist implications.

Maybe it was true in the fifties and sixties that women were the primary homemakers for their families, and needed to be home to make dinner. But times have changed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2011 that 70.6% of all mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force. You can find more specifics in this study: In addition, more and more men are becoming the primary caretakers for their children (although the number is still relatively low). Mitt Romney’s assumptions on what issues are relevant to women in the workforce aren’t necessarily true anymore as gender roles in our society become less defined.

And frankly, those assumptions are offensive. Women don’t need special accommodation so that they can be home in time to make dinner. They need a partner who is willing to share childcare and homemaking responsibilities equally, and America needs employers who understand that men and women deserve equally flexible hours, to give both parents the opportunity to care for and spend time with their family, as well as equal pay for equal work. (Both candidates somewhat avoided the question regarding equal pay, but if you’re interested, here is a description of the Lilly Ledbetter Act:

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Mitt Romney; politicians and journalists alike often talk about “women’s issues” and the “women’s vote”, as if all women have the same problems and vote the same way. Some issues, of course, are more specific to women, such as access to contraception and gender discrimination. But not all women care about those issues on the same level. And in the twenty-first century, childcare and flexible work hours are no more exclusive to women than unemployment is to men.

The comments Mitt Romney made in the debate Tuesday night, and those other politicians have made before him, are just another kind of sexism. It might be easier for politicians to keep gender roles strict, so they can fit the electorate inside little boxes (or binders) and pander to those issues. But it’s time for us to realize that the structure of our society is changing, and we need to change with it.


Raising My Hand Online

Throughout all my years as a student, participation has always been my strongest suit. I am constantly raising my hand in class, even when most of my answers prove to be wrong. It’s difficult for me to understand concepts and think of ideas without thinking out loud to someone else. For this reason, I’m better at class discussions than in-class essays, and teachers’ comments are rarely “speak up more”.

From the start, I knew an online class would be different. Without a traditional classroom setting in which students and teacher are in one space, I knew it would be much less often that I would see other people face to face. But it was hard to really understand the dynamics of an online class until I started it, and I soon found out that it was even more unfamiliar to my previous learning experiences than I had imagined.

The first class “discussion” was incredibly nerve-wracking. Even though my hand is often the first to be raised in my offline classes, I was reluctant to post anything to this discussion until I saw several others do so. I spent a long time reading and rereading my post to make sure it didn’t sound stupid, or crazy, or wrong. I delayed participating as long as I could, and when I finally submitted I felt more anxiety, instead of relief.

I think I enjoy in-person learning and discussions more because I am able to see others’ reactions. In an offline class, the conversation adapts to everyone’s ideas and flows naturally. I can respond to my classmates’ ideas and see how they react to mine. In an online setting, I felt isolated and cut off, unsure of myself. I was less of an active learner, and more of a passive watcher.

But as the weeks have gone by, I’ve learned the value of an online education. I’ve had to significantly step out of my comfort zone and embrace a new type of participation. My learning style has changed, and I think for the better. Online discussions force me to think before I “speak”, and my contributions are more valuable for it. The ability to only share once in our discussions makes me more thoughtful and more conscious of what I’m saying. My in-school learning has been impacted as well, as I’ve learned to say less but share more valuable insights in class discussions. I’ve also discovered that stepping back can be a blessing, as now I am more attentive to everyone else’s insights and ideas, which further enhances my learning.

Even in these few weeks I have been in an online class, I have grown as a student, and I have learned so much about how I can learn more effectively. Despite the initial discomfort and anxiety, stepping out of my comfort zone and into a new learning environment has helped me in a positive way. I can’t wait to see how much I’ve changed by the end of the year.


Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Learning, Technology